Dressage Lesson Diary

Skib

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Dec 21, 2003
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Bit of background - my lessons were not to teach me dressage. They were to cure my fear of canter in the school, and equip me to canter horses offered for sale.
My lessons had an unexpected outcome. They transformed the safe beginner RS pony who had been picked to teach me. Thus before he returned to his weekday job of teaching small kids, he and I together produced our first flying change.

The change in this pony convinced me, perhaps wrongly, that any horse on which I consistently rode dressage tests would be similarly transformed.
This Diary reports on progress - if any - with Larry who unlike the beginner pony has the physical qualities needed to canter a 10 m circle, our next objective.

I tell the RI I am anxious about the left rein. She reassures me we will canter 15 m. first.

However, this lesson needs to factor in two changes. New Forest's concern for my safety means I have decided to exercise more. control. I am certainly safer as Larry reverts to the reluctant, bored RS lesson horse I first met. He's not moving and my RIs own concern for my safety means I am riding with no whip.

We start by trotting 20m circles spiralling in and leg yield out on both reins and then riding 10 m. circles in trot. I am repeatedly offered my whip back but have it in my head that my future with Larry depends on my discovering how to get his compliance and canter without the whip.

Anyone have views on this?

I am not prepared to return to being the worst RS pupil in the world. I sort it privately with Larry and get 15 m. canter circles. I learn (I am slow to learn obvious things) that, just as one needs more energy to walk a 10 m. circle than to walk large, the same is true of canter. Asking for canter on a 15 m. circle is harder than on a 20 m. circle. Both are harder than beginning to circle when you already have the energy and speed from trotting or cantering large.

Worth mentioning that I already cantered half a 10 m circle. A challenge set by my RI: to trot up the centre line, transition to canter at x and turn away in the correct direction at the end of the school. I rode it to the right. On the left I transitioned at x but chickened out of cantering left at the end.

However, next week I could canter large and try turning left up the centre line.

Any accounts of how you learned to canter 10 m circles or taught your horse would be interesting. But no criticism please of me and my vague ways nor of the RI who gave me my dream to ride a flying change before I died.
 

Chrisnscully

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Aug 11, 2007
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Anyone have views on this?

I don't ride Scully with a whip and don't let anyone else do so either. I do carry a whip when riding in Italy but never use it to do anything other than tap on the numnah or hold it against the outside shoulder in Ivoire's case :D I would rather work with the horse to gain a genuine desire to cooperate - it takes longer but is more rewarding in the end when you succeed.

You might want to carry the whip so he knows you have it - sometimes that helps.

lol - my RI used to make do that exercise but between X and C I had to tell her what lead I was on and turn the correct way at C.

Another option is to ride demi voltes in canter, so canter in the corner, up the long side, then as you reach 3/4 of the way up the side do a 10m circle to the centre line and then back to track in a sort of long teardrop shape, changing the rein in the process.

You might find that cantering from walk is a good way to start full 10m circles. You need lots of energy and impulsion in the walk so asking forward and holding the power in your hands. Without the forward speed of trot the horse should find it easier to bend and turn in the circle. Keep your leg on so the horse doesn't fall out of canter.

Good luck :)
 

Skib

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Dec 21, 2003
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Another option is to ride demi voltes in canter, so canter in the corner, up the long side, then as you reach 3/4 of the way up the side do a 10m circle to the centre line and then back to track in a sort of long teardrop shape, changing the rein in the process.
Good luck :)

O thank you Chris. I did that - rode the tear drop and was so overjoyed, I stupidly called out "I did it" and hugged the horse- a bad idea to stop on the middle of the school, as I then tried twice more and failed. Because I lost the canter.

However this week I did 15 m. canter circles no problems. It is good enough for me if something I find hard one week, is easy at the next lesson.

I didnt ride walk to canter. But I will eventually, as my original RI always teaches everyone walk to canter at her yard. And I teach it to all the BHS horses I ride. I may ride trot canter transitions on him next week and see if he feels ready to give me the same in walk canter. If I remember.

My education of this particular horse Larry is not going well. I had arguments with him - hence all the transitions - He's a RS horse and has forgotten work I did with him on halt and back up.

RI rode him later and I watched her have similar arguments. My feeling is he is a horse who doesnt give his mind to the rider. Potentially this horse would give me a flying change at the end of the loop - we both know he would - . Because he thinks he knows what he is doing - unsolicited.

I am a bit depressed that he did not look better in canter with a prize winning rider on his back. This may be a project to work out how to ride this horse rather than to make a dressage rider of me. I have a choice of horses, by the way, but just dont want to back down any more than he does.
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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I ride with a whip on occasion, I like a long schooling whip. I never use it for speed,, jess is very responsive to my leg for that, but due to her conformation (waffy front left leg) she can get a little stiffer on her right hind so sometimes a touch on her right flank at the right time in the stride encourages her to step through further with that leg and once she does she loosens up quickly in it.

It sounds like your lessons are really targeted and progressive, I really like that with an RI and it sounds like you are enjoying it too
 

Chrisnscully

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Aug 11, 2007
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Glad it worked for you :)

My education of this particular horse Larry is not going well. I had arguments with him

Lol - I love this sort of horse, getting the "difficult" ones on your side and going well is much more rewarding.
 

OwnedbyChanter

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This is excellent skib. Your ri sounds very good and builds on each week.

I use a schooling whip with ginger because he is difficult and lazy meaning I work harder than him and it help to remind him to bring his back end under.

Riding a challenging horse is a good way to improve your own riding but sometimes you can get stuck as you both battle to get something which neither quiet understands which can be disheartening.

I think you are doing a great job.
 

Skib

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Dec 21, 2003
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Maybe it is good to keep a diary of RS lessons on line - for other people ride the horses and you never know what you will get.

I decided it would be Boot Camp for Larry this week, lots of transitions to make him concentrate and on a long rein.
But my RI hadnt liked Larry resisting her last week just as he had me. So she had changed his bit to a Dutch Gag. Single rein still but one ring down.
Forget the bolshy creature who spooked and wrested control with the Pony Club riders. My RI had now schooled him herself and she remarked on the change. Now he looked lovely when ridden by her and I was handed a horse that was soft and compliant.
My instructions were to ride him with hands low and the rein long. Which is how I like to ride anyway.

He was a pleasure to ride - so the focus of teaching turned to me. I had been afraid of canter in the school partly because I rode on loopy reins and lacked steering. But oddly spent most of the lesson today relinquishing the reins: masses of 20 m circles and soft canter transitions up and down, some at the buckle. Hopefully my heart will no longer sink when asked to go round and round in canter circles -
It made me realise that very few dressage tests ask you to go round and round the same circle and close to the fence.

RI proved to me that one didnt need reins for steering circles - even in canter. Having a horse listen enough to feel safe to ask for canter at the buckle was as far as I got with the previous pony. Now at last. I have caught up with what I was doing before I switched horses and began to ride Larry.
With a RS horse you never know what you will get next time.I surely cant take credit for his obedience today. But cantering easily forward when turning on the arc of a circle will help me ride your tear drops Chris next time I try them.
 
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Skib

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No comment on the Dutch Gag? And now he's released from punishment and in a hanging cheek snaffle. Whereas I am into winter boots and heavy mac.
As we trotted round 10m turn, he threw in a step of unsolicited canter and a squeal which I wrong assumed came from another horse rolling in next arena - RI put it down to excitement and after that drama he settled and I deliberately rode canter transitions on a 20 m. circle close to the fence and never a frisson of fear.
Worked then on downward transitions canter to walk. None of them perfect. I felt he might offer canter from walk, so the opportunity was seized, and walk to canter transitions were nailed on both reins. At this RS canter from walk is usually a first for the horses.
I am now at the point with Larry - softly alternating trot canter and walk canter on a 20 m circle - that I had reached when I stopped riding the previous eager lesson pony. I began to think it might never happen. Now at last I can get out some tests and go further.
 

newforest

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Mar 15, 2008
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Hi
Answering your question on your first post, what size whip do you mean? Schooling or short. I don't ride with a schooling whip because my cob doesn't like it carried. She does though listen to a tap behind my leg with the short, however I have started to not carry it for some sessions.

No other useful input to offer as we are only riding the circles you speak off in walk and trot. We enjoy voltes and reverse demi voltes as they make me think a lot!
 

Skib

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Hi
Answering your question on your first post, what size whip do you mean? Schooling or short.
It is a schooling whip- but the emphasis changed completely once RI had ridden the horse after he had proved wilful when jumping with other students. The language of riding is still mysterious to me. It had never occurred to me to say he was "too strong". Either a horse pays attention to me or he doesnt. Removing my whip was intended to keep him slower and calmer, believing that I excited him, whereas RI when she rode him and schooled him a couple of weeks later used very firm riding plus the schooling whip, plus a more formidable bit.

I dont blame the RI for changing the approach. One of the things I am enjoying about these lessons, is being able to try different things with a horse both my ideas and RI's and feel the way to getting it right for that particular RS horse. With the previous horse we got it wrong for weeks.

No other useful input to offer as we are only riding the circles you speak off in walk and trot. We enjoy voltes and reverse demi voltes as they make me think a lot!

What is a reverse demi volte please?

I forgot to mention (elderly memory) that I spent some time riding walk and trot circles with counter bend, for the good of the horse but at which I felt useless, so would like any advice on how people ride this please. But I am not sure a diary is a good idea. I may need to post any questions on the public part of the forum?
 

sophie33

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It is entirely up to you of course, as I am reading to learn rather than to contribute, but I'd vote for you doing a diary - this is fascinating!
 

newforest

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I say the same as you Skib. A horse listens or they don't. A strong horse to me isn't listening, or has a tendency not to. If jumping mine tends to decide when to turn in, not listening to me. I could say strong as changing her mind is impossible. Strong minded Maybe?
 

newforest

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Reverse demi volte is doing the shape by riding a haunches in to come back on the track.
Have a look on you tube. I think we are just making the shapes as oppose to a proper movement. But it's helping her focus.
 

Skib

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Thank you newforest and others who helped with the counter bend question. I watched the demi volte and revers demi volte on you tube and went off to the lessons, understanding the shape and rode it straight off today in trot.
For RS riders the lesson with the RI present is the only encounter we have with the horse. Our instructor is not an occasional visitor helping us improve our competitive chances with a horse.
One or two people asked why I rode with no reins. For the horse and for myself. This is a conventional BHS school where horses are brought on the bit mostly by use of one's hands. Eager Pony was leaning continually on my hands till I reverted to my more classical ways, stopped half halting all the time with my fingers and cantered him at the buckle. With the rein removed, the pony was transformed.

But I did it also for me. Rashid suggested that some of us might be scared of canter in the school because we had no contact - no brakes and steering. My norm is to ride with washing line reins - I began to ride with more contact in the school and my canter steering was solved.

But six months later, I have come full circle. RI had shown me one can canter a 20 m. circle without using the rein.
And we were on the circle (rather than learning things in other possibly preferable ways) because I confessed to RI that I was still a teeny bit apprehensive if I was asked to canter on a circle.

There is another thing about RS lessons - Larry is off elsewhere - and just when I was happy on him and riding walk canter transitions and with a list of things to do. So there is no sequel, no story. May be it isnt even a good idea for me ever to go back to riding Larry. I'm not that fond of him and have my eye on another sweet horse for dressage lessons.
 

Skib

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A new year and I am happy to ride the sweet pony in my lesson. The fear is that she is too slow in the school for me to ride a test, and she doesnt like the left lead. She was a lively creature out hacking and my idea today was to test these doubts and see if she would move as willingly for me in the school. As I thought, the answer was Yes.
For my poor RI it seemed like I was going right back to square one But when I get to ride a new pony, everything may be new for them too. A nice halt, trotting 10 m. circles, transitioning on a thought. Not things they do in their normal working lives. In and out on circles and her final canter on the left lead, like a bolt from the blue. I had no control for three strides or so - Took my breath away - so for a dead, slow horse quite an eye opener.
But I love this horse. And I am not afraid of her - I forced her canter back on the track and insisted on cantering right round the corner and two more circles, just to remind her that I take the decisions. Also (see above) I can now canter circles! And she did some nice halts from trot to finish. Could be better but we have time. Next lesson I will take in Prelim 13.
I have joined the adults riding ponies brigade.
 

Skib

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I had hoped to give a realistic diary of what it is like to ride as an RS rider. But I think it is time to wind up this diary. For the clock struck midnight and this Cinderella is back in rags. The world's worse riding pupil. I could elaborate why it has happened.
I intended to ride Prelim 13 but as I warmed up trotting Lady she spooked at the corner - only then was I told there were builders working and polythene left hanging on the fence and moving in the wind. So I showed her that that corner was nothing to fear.
The RS horses are incredibly fresh just now. Fewer people are taking lessons and horses have more days off. So I am on a pony that has once charged off with me, has already spooked, is happily offering canter at every corner and I am being asked to ride her into canter with no rein contact. Plus to use leg at every stride. Of course I dont really want to canter at all in those circumstances.
I have indeed cantered two of the lesson horses with no rein contact - and cantered circles too. But they were horses I knew and had already made responsive to my riding. It is quite likely that if one owns a horse or has regular uninterrupted use of an RS horse which one schools to one's own liking and rides at one's own discretion, that one can make steady and regular progress. And the RI will perceive that progress as successful rider training. When it doesnt happen, all sorts of corrections and instructions are thrown into the mix because that is the job of a riding instructor - to instruct.
Whereas what this diary shows is that as soon as I revert to lessons where I am doing what the teacher says, my riding skills and sensitivities vanish. The teaching that suits me is where I ride the horse - and when something dissatisfies me or if I dont know how to ride something, I turn to the teacher - apply what they say and it works. May be next summer if Larry comes back I will give it another go. But for now it is enough. This is not my being afraid to canter in the school. It is my sense of self preservation.
 

selside

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Skib, it seems to me that unless/until you are in a position to buy/share/loan your own horse again you will always face these problems. (I am a mature RS rider too and have faced what I think of as "winter mindset" with the ponies I ride. They have no turnout, less riding and can be very Jekyll and Hydey from lesson to lesson. I have posted on here previously about the "spin and flee" cob I struggle with in her trickier moments.)

But I don't see why you want to abandon a very interesting diary, with well thought out routines and challenges just because you had a session that pushed you a little too far. Self preservation is laudable - and sensible as one gets older, but if you are only wanting to ride on your terms, on the specific horses you enjoy and at times when they are in the right mood that's not entirely realistic, is it?

I would be sorry if you threw in the towel with the RS lessons. You seems to have been learning a lot, and helping the horses you ride too. The underlying feeling behind what you write is that you really prefer to a one to one with the same horse in a progressive relationship. Being solely an RS rider is bound to push your comfort zone on occasions. Too few of the variables are within your control.

Your last entry is not consistent all the diary that preceded it. Maybe more has gone on than you mention. Don't give up, or at least have a good think about what the future holds.
 

sophie33

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Perhaps selfishly because I enjoy your diary I would be disappointed if you gave it up, but of course it is up to you. Just one thought - last night I had a lesson on Flicka (a share horse rather than a lesson horse) and I refused to canter her. My RI knew I meant it and just accepted it, even though I had expressly given her permission to push me the week before! Can't you find an instructor (or ask this instructor) to take the same approach with you?
My decision was for similar reasons - we had been walking around at one end of the school for half an hour or so while a very, very hyper horse was being lunged. It was windy and raining. Flicks was a bit spooky, and probably with too much energy due to not getting much hacking over weekend. I was tense because of the hyper horse. Once we had the run of the school Flicks was running in trot and leaning on my hands. I was too tense so finding it hard not to tense against her creating a vicious circle. I decided to call it a day. I still feel I made the right decision this morning. Anyway, I am digressing too much, this isn't about me!
 

Skib

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Dec 21, 2003
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Selside and Sophie - Thank you both so much. I am so clueless that it never crossed my mind that these winter problems affected everyone. I havent abandoned lessons - being puritanical I have always had lessons as well as hacking. I meant I was giving up on the diary, or pretending to be a proper rider!
Because of my age and because I am a regular customer, I have a lot of choice about my lessons and which horse to ride. So it was my choice to ride this same pony again and get my own way with her. It would have been defeatist not to. But, lovely hack tho she is, I now see she is not dressage material. When I look back to the effortless canter transitions Larry gave me, I realise how lucky I was.
I may resume this Diary when Larry returns or my dressage education moves on. But this is a public Board and I need some anonymity to sort out which of the horses I want to ride, to share or even buy. And even where to take lessons.
 
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